QUICKSTART Guide to Crowdfunding on Seed&Spark
FIRST THINGS FIRST: We are a site that supports all things moving-picture related. Films (shorts, features, docs, experimental), webseries, film festivals, and even (and almost especially) independent cinemas and screening venues who need to build audiences. And let's face it, we ALL need to build audiences. Why?
Getting films seen is way harder than getting them made. You're competing with cat videos these days. In order to ensure you can stand out in the crowd, you have to gather one.
It's called CROWDFunding. The word CROWD comes before the word funding because you have to have a crowd before you can ask them for money. Crowdfunding is one way of engaging and growing your crowd - it's not the way to intitate one.
If you're at the very beginning of your process, take a look at the "Crowdfunding to Build Independence Handbook" under "Awesome Downloads" on the left side of this page. Read it, live it, love it. Below are the quickstart steps.
Please remember, though, that we are a SELECTIVE CROWDFUNDING PLATFORM. That means before approving a project, we need to see that you've assembled the necessary components for a successful campaign: A strong team (WHO); the seed of a great film (WHAT); and a compelling purpose behind your proposed film (WHY).
Plus, you're going to need a whole lot of passion and dedication, because crowdfunding is nothing short of a full-time job!
Step 1. Turn on your social media.
The audience-building process begins long before your campaign goes live. If you wait until you launch to start attracting followers, you’ll still be building your network when you should be engaging with it to promote your project. Good social media outreach is the core of every successful crowdfunded film, so don’t neglect it!
Not sure how to get the most out of social media? Have questions you’re too embarrassed to ask? Maybe you’re downright terrified of Facebook? If you answered yes to any of these, the Seed&Spark Social Media Handbook has the answers. If hashtags look to you like hieroglyphics, this is the Rosetta Stone you've been waiting for!
Engaging with your audience long before you begin crowdfunding will also teach you a lot about what they respond to - and what they don't - which will be helpful in creating your pitch video, incentives, and even your entire film.
Step 2. Prep your written materials.
Before you press the big blue LAUNCH button in the Seed&Spark STUDIO, be ready with the following information:
- Logline (max 100 characters)
- Short synopsis (max 300 characters)
- Long synopsis
- "About your team" description
- Artistic statement
- Budget information
- Production status
- Distribution plan
We’re a curated platform, so don't skimp on the details. Tell us ALL the reasons your project belongs on Seed&Spark, and why you're the team to produce it. The only information we have when making our decisions is what’s in your profile, so pitch your story as hard as you can.
If you’d like to learn more about how we evaluate projects, take a look at our Guidelines.
Step 3. Create a pitch video.
Pitch videos are meant to help you reach the widest possible audience for your film. The first 15 seconds should feel like it's in the world of your film and really capture the audience's attention. After that, give us the personal appeal, let us know what is needed to be successful, and make your crowd feel there is a sense of inevitability that a great project will result.
On some crowdfunding sites, videos are optional. At Seed&Spark we require them. Why? Because the data shows that project pages containing personal pitch videos raise more money. It’s that simple. Also, since you’re trying to fund a film, it never hurts to show people you know how to make one!
The most successful pitch videos feature the people who are making the project. Tell a good story (or two or three) about why you decided to launch your project. Work from a script, even if it's a rough one. Use a camera, a microphone, and some nice light (even if its natural light). Use a variety of imagery. In other words, your video shouldn’t just be talking heads—unless you're so charismatic that we can’t look away!
Before you even start scripting your pitch, ask yourself the following questions: Why am I making this film, and why should we get involved with you? Then use your video to answer those questions as personally as you can. Be creative. Be humorous. Or just speak from the heart. This is your opportunity to show people just how loveable you and all your crazy ideas are. So, be authentic. But more importantly, have fun!
Step 4. Submit your project to the STUDIO.
Once you’ve submitted, we'll get back to you in 1-2 days—either to accept your project or provide feedback and questions if we don't think you're quite ready. Curious about our guidelines? They're explained in detail here. But just remember, we're an audience-building tool. The more you can effectively communicate what you're offering to your community, the more we'll be able to help you.
From explaining basic terms to providing codec and compression guidelines for your pitch videos, we provide a lot of additional info—and answer a bunch more questions—in our FAQ.
Step 5. Build your campaign incentives.
Crowdfunding isn’t a one-way street. If you’re asking the community to support your film, you need to give something back in exchange. But you also can’t over-extend yourself creating intricate gifts for your fans. After all, you aren’t a manufacturer. You’re a filmmaker. So focus on creative incentives that create a deeper engagement with your film. Offer special credit in the movie (giving a Producer doesn’t cost you anything, and it could mean the world to one of your big supporters), private sneak peeks, invitations to special film-related events, or a visit to have lunch on set with the actors and crew. The MOST IMPORTANT INCENTIVES are the ones for $10-25 because you'll be delivering the most of those. They should be PERSONAL, VISUAL, and SHARABLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA - so that your supporters can show their friends what cool stuff they got for supporting you, thus gathering more supporters.
Since we award Sparks, your supporters can redeem them to watch movies for free in our CINEMA. Therefore, don't worry about offering a free download of your film. That said, people do love special DVDs. Still, if you go that route, only give physical copies of the film to people who give more than enough to cover the costs. That isn’t a hard rule, but generally, beyond a postcard from set, we recommend you avoid promising material objects as much as possible. They will cost you money and time to produce and ship. Let’s stop proliferating stuff, and focus on making movies!
Make sure you budget time and money to deliver your incentives - and do it when you say you will!
Step 6. Create your WishList.
The WishList is a crowdfunding tool unique to Seed&Spark, and we’re pretty proud of it. It looks and functions like a wedding registry, where every item in your budget gets broken down into bite-sized pieces. Then, supporters BUY or LOAN the items you need to make your movie. Most contributions fall between $25 and $100, so design your WishList with that kernel of wisdom in mind. For instance, if you need to rent a camera for $8,000, divide that cost into $25 units so a bunch of people can share the burden.
With the WishList, your supporters know exactly how they’re contributing to your film—which gets them more emotionally invested. They aren’t just throwing money at a nebulous budget; they’re helping you pay your actors, rent your lighting kit, or buy that antique typewriter for your protagonist’s office.
Make your WishList aspirational and include everything you need to make your movie. Have fun, and focus on creating a great shopping experience for your supporters. The WishList will give the members of your community their own unique and sharable story about how they helped make your movie.
You must raise 80% of your WishList total (including loans)—in a 30, 45 or 60 day campaign—to receive the Green Light in the Seed&Spark STUDIO. Keep in mind that you can always choose to fundraise in stages (i.e. a separate campaign for development, pre-production, production, post-production, and/or distribution). And we make it so you don’t have to start from scratch for each phase. After you get the Green Light, you can launch a new WishList for the same film from the same project page.
Finally, as you build your WishList, remember to account for the fees that will come out of your total. Every site charges a fee. Ours is 5%. Have more questions about the rules? We’ve done our best to answer them here.
For a more comprehensive WishList game plan, check out our 10 Tips for WishList Success!
Step 7. Schedule your Launch date with us.
After we’ve helped you build your ideal WishList, we'll work with your team to schedule the launch date for your 30- or 45-day campaign. There isn't a GO LIVE button you can hit. We have to start the clock ticking for you. Why? So that we can review your WishList and incentives to make sure they’re optimized for reaching the largest possible number of supporters. Seed&Spark doesn’t just help you raise funds; we help build the community that can sustain you for your entire career.
Step 8. Warm up your engines.
Before we push your project out of the nest, we highly recommend you soft-launch your campaign. Soft-launching can be as simple as sending out a mass email announcing the funding start date and warming up your followers on Facebook and Twitter with preview posts a week or two before your project goes live. You don't want to wait until the last second to let everyone know you're raising money for your film. The most successful crowdfunding campaigns build steam early, and to gain that early momentum, you need a big opening day. So, give your supporters a chance to be ready!
Any promotions, video content, or incentives you plan to deliver during your campaign: get them ready before you launch. Well in advance of your project’s start date, plan out 2-3 unique “Latest News” updates per week (even if the details are speculative), and set your goals in terms of numbers. How much money do you need to raise each week to stay on target? How many supporters do you need to be successful?
PRO-TIP: Do not ask for "help" with "donations." Crowdfunding contributions are not donations, as they are not typically tax deductible. Ask your community to join what you're offering with a contribution. You're contributing and they're contributing and together you will make something spectacular.
Typically, a successful $10,000 campaign ends up with around 100 unique supporters and an additional 50-100 followers who didn't offer financial support but are interested in what you’re doing and might support you next time. Focusing on building the number of supporters, rather than focusing on the actual dollars raised, can feel less daunting—but is just as effective. If you’ve ever listened to a public radio fund drive, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t talk about how much money they need to raise in a given hour. They talk about how many new or renewing members they need to add to their roles. Fundraising data supports that if you just get enough people to participate, you’ll hit your target. Remember, you aren’t raising funds; you’re building community!